Elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and staghorn (A. cervicornis) corals were listed as threatened under the ESA on May 9, 2006. Elkhorn and staghorn corals were once the most abundant and important species on Atlantic/Caribbean coral reefs in terms of building reef structure. Both elkhorn and staghorn corals underwent precipitous declines in abundance throughout their ranges. No single or collective group of threats may impact all regions of these species’ ranges equally. Multiple threats acting synergistically or cumulatively likely compound impediments to recovery among elkhorn and staghorn coral populations. The threats to these species that are impeding recovery are: disease, increasing
temperature, depensatory population effects, loss of recruitment habitat, sedimentation, anthropogenic abrasion and breakage, predation, inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms, natural abrasion and breakage, ocean acidification, and nutrients and contaminants.
The purpose of this recovery plan is to identify a strategy for rebuilding and assuring the long-term viability of elkhorn coral and staghorn coral populations in the wild, allowing ultimately for the species’ removal from the federal list of endangered and threatened species. Actions must be taken to address ocean warming and acidification impacts on these species. Simultaneously, local threat reductions, mitigation strategies, and in and ex situ conservation and restoration actions must be pursued.
The goal of this recovery plan is to increase the abundance and to protect the genetic diversity of elkhorn and staghorn coral populations throughout their geographical ranges while sufficiently abating threats to warrant delisting of both species.